We got to see a little bit more of the starters and other key players during Week 2 of the NFL preseason. Which performances really jumped out?
It’s safe to say that teams like the Jaguars and Bills are envious of the Chiefs. We were also underwhelmed with the performances of the Patriots, Raiders and Steelers, arguably the AFC’s best three teams. On the other hand, the up-and-coming Titans gave their fans something else to be excited about. In Seattle, an injury to a key player completely marred an otherwise fine day for the Seahawks.
These are the top takeaways from each Week 2 NFL preseason game.
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins: Jay Cutler showed rust, and some promise, too
Cutler’s preseason debut on Thursday didn’t exactly give Miami fans reason to believe that he’ll be great. But it wasn’t awful, either. Overall, Cutler was 3-for-6 for 24 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He was only 1-for-3 when targeting DeVante Parker, but that one completion went for 16 yards. He also completed a 31-yarder to Parker that was nullified by a holding penalty.
In a way, it was a typical performance from Cutler in that we can call it average. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that while Cutler has had an average career, that’s come from a balance of great games and terrible ones. So, maybe this was more atypical. It wasn’t great or terrible. It was perfectly average. His preseason debut certainly gives us reason to look forward to next week’s game against the Eagles.
Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles: Tyrod Taylor struggles under center
Taylor struggled mightily in his first game since Sammy Watkins was traded. The quarterback was 8-for-18 for 53 yards with no touchdowns. On their own, those stats are noticeable. But when we couple those with two interceptions, Taylor’s day looks really bad, especially given that both interceptions can be blamed on him.
The first was a matter of Taylor hurrying a throw in the face of a blitz, which resulted in a tipped interception. On the second, he decided not to throw the ball away, but to throw deep — off balance and into coverage. Former teammate Ronald Darby knew what to do with that one. While the plan in Buffalo is still for Taylor to be the starter come Week 1 of the regular season, this certainly wasn’t the performance that anyone in the Buffalo organization wanted to see.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles does nothing to quell nerves
If you were thinking that Bortles would show well in his first extended preseason game action of 2017, then you were sadly mistaken. Bortles didn’t throw any interceptions, but since he wasn’t around to pick up second half garbage time minutes, he didn’t get to throw any touchdowns, either.
The Jacksonville quarterback was 8-for-13 for 65 yards. That’s just a shade over eight yards per completion, folks. He completed a lot of short routes but when it came time to go vertical, Bortles was no better in the game than he was in practice. Bortles is not only failing to get better, but he is actually getting worse. He just can’t have that many chances left.
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks: George Fant’s season-ending injury
Russell Wilson played well on Friday. Unfortunately, any positives regarding his play were immediately marred when Fant, the starting left tackle, was carted off of the field. He will miss the entire season with an ACL injury. Before the regular season begins, an offensive line that wasn’t great to begin with is forced to move to Plan B when it comes to protecting Russell Wilson’s blind side.
Seattle is still one of the league’s better teams overall. But while it’s still a good unit, the defense isn’t quite what it was from 2012-2014. If the Seahawks are going to get back to those levels and become true Super Bowl contenders, the offense will need to be better in 2017 than it was in 2016. That will start with protecting Wilson. Seattle should really consider a trade. If it doesn’t, keeping Wilson upright will be a significant uphill battle.
Carolina Panthers at Tennessee Titans: Tennessee’s defense shows off ball-hawking tendencies
Tennessee’s offense had an impressive day for itself, scoring 17 points in the first quarter. But if we’re being honest, the Tennessee defense deserves a great deal of credit. After the offense kicked a field goal on the opening drive, the defense wasted no time getting the ball back when Logan Ryan forced a Devin Funchess fumble on Carolina’s first offensive play. Two Panthers’ possessions later, Justin Staples intercepted Derek Anderson, creating another short field for the offense, and another touchdown.
The Titans have a lot of talent offense and figure to score plenty of points. If the defense can create short fields (those two scoring drives totaled 30 yards), it will be a very good year in Tennessee.
Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals: Do the Chiefs already have two quality QBs?
Alex Smith might have had visions of Colin Kaepernick replacing him in 2012 when he saw Patrick Mahomes on the field during Saturday’s game. Mahomes was stellar when he came into the game after Smith. The Texas Tech rookie completed 10-of-14 passes for 88 yards and two scores. Of course, Smith wasn’t bad himself. The game manager actually had a significantly higher yardage per attempt number than the gunslinger (9.2 to 6.3). Smith started the game and went 8-for-9, passing for 83 yards and a touchdown.
So many teams are lacking a quality starting quarterback. While Mahomes is still very raw, the Chiefs might have two. The present and future of the Chiefs’ quarterback position looks pretty darn good.
Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys: Fans shouldn’t fret about Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension
There’s no question that Elliott is a fantastic talent. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Elliott’s appeal is denied and his controversial suspension is upheld. Things will be okay in Dallas, and Saturday’s game showed precisely why.
Darren McFadden rushed for 59 yards on nine carries. Alfred Morris went for 49 on nine carries. That’s a staggering six yards per carry between the two. McFadden and Morris are not Elliott. Make no mistake about it. But running behind the league’s best offensive line, the two of the can do a decent job replacing the suspended star. Neither man may represent a long-term option as a featured back. But for six games, there’s no reason to get too concerned.
Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins: Samaje Perine stands out in otherwise poor effort
Perine didn’t have an especially strong preseason debut. But he does know how to make a solid second impression. Perine rushed for a solid 5.6 yards per clip, toting the ball eight times for 45 yards. For good measure, he added a reception for 29 yards.
Saturday was generally a disappointing game for the Redskins, who looked quite flat in a loss to the Packers. But for a team looking to replace quality players like DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, Perine’s game was a nice breath of fresh air.
New York Jets at Detroit Lions: Detroit fails to impress in win over Jets
Given the opponent, we wanted to see a little more out of Detroit, a team that has made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. Instead, what we saw was an offensive line that couldn’t get its backs going. Starter Ameer Abdullah rushed for a respectable four yards a carry on four carries, but one of those carries went for eight yards. In other words, the other three went for less than three yards per. Overall, the Lions rushed for a pitiful 2.6 yards per carry. A good rule of thumb is to not read too much into a preseason effort, especially from a veteran team. But it’s safe to say that Detroit left Saturday’s game with a lot of work to do.
New England Patriots at Houston Texans: Tom Savage shreds New England defense
Tom Savage completed eight passes in nine attempts on Saturday for 98 yards and a touchdown.
How much you read into a preseason game coached by Bill Belichick is your business. But Savage compiled those stats despite the fact that New England’s starting corners — Stephen Gilmore and Malcolm Butler — both played. Even more significantly, DeAndre Hopkins — Houston’s best receiver — did not play. We can at least concede that that kind of performance against a Patriots defense is worthy of taking notice, especially for a quarterback like Savage.
Chicago Bears at Arizona Cardinals: Mitchell Trubisky will start sooner rather than later
Mike Glennon starting over Mitchell Trubisky isn’t the classic “established, capable veteran keeping the seat warm for the talented, but raw rookie” scenario. That’s what’s going on in Kansas City with Smith and Mahomes. Glennon just isn’t a starter that should keep the No. 2 pick in the draft on the bench for an extended period of time. He showed that again on Saturday. Glennon did complete a respectable 13-of-18 passes and had a touchdown pass. But he also threw an ugly pick before the touchdown and totaled only 89 yards.
Trubisky, meanwhile, was 6-for-8 for 60 yards and had a touchdown of his own. He also didn’t turn the ball over, although an interception was dropped. Glennon may open the regular season as the starting quarterback, but don’t expect him to keep that job for more than a few weeks.
Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers: Trevor Siemian should be Broncos starter
He’s not going to remind fans in Denver of Peyton Manning or John Elway. But through two preseason games, Siemian has shown himself to be noticeably better than Paxton Lynch.
Against the 49ers, Lynch completed one more pass than Siemian, but he threw for 54 fewer yards and missed Demaryius Thomas wide open twice. Lynch also completed one more combined pass over the first two preseason games, but Siemian has out-gained him by 63 yards. Teams need a quarterback that can make opponents respect the deep ball. Lynch completing nine passes for 39 yards against San Francisco just isn’t going to get that done. Of the two, Siemian has shown himself to by the best option for Denver. And really, the margin isn’t close.
Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders: Oakland’s defense is a work in progress
The Raiders enter 2017 with real Super Bowl aspirations. When it comes time to face the league’s best offenses, this defense will need to be much better than we saw last year and what we’ve seen this preseaon.
Running behind an improved line, Todd Gurley III went for 4.8 yards per carry. But we can at least acknowledge that when given breathing room, Gurley has proven that he can be an NFL star. Jared Goff has done no such thing, but you wouldn’t know if by seeing him on Saturday. He went 16-for-20 for 160 yards with a touchdown and a 116.7 passer rating.
If Oakland is going be anywhere near Minneapolis during the first Sunday in February, this defense has a lot of work to do.
Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh defense struggles in first half
We understand that veteran teams may run conservative game plans in the preseason. After all, in games that don’t count, do you really want to give your rivals film to study what you’re actually going to do in the regular season? With that said, the Steelers defense was carved up in the first half against the Falcons.
Matt Ryan got the ball rolling with a 10-play, 91-yard touchdown drive on Atlanta’s first possession. Then, Matt Schaub and Matt Simms combined to lead the Falcons on a 14-play, 76-yard drive that resulted in a field goal on the second possession, which was followed by a 13-play, 77-yard drive from Simms that also ended in a field goal. This wasn’t a matter of turnovers and big special teams plays leading to short fields. Atlanta just moved the ball at will on Pittsburgh’s defense.
If you’re a Steelers fan, you’d better hope that it was just a vanilla game plan. Otherwise, a lot of pressure is going to be applied to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense.
New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Chargers: No-show effort from Los Angeles defense
In Week 1, the Seahawks starters picked the Chargers’ defense apart. Week 2 against the Saints was all too similar. Alvin Kamara went for a 50-yard touchdown on New Orleans’ first offensive play. From there, whether it was rushing or passing, the Saints moved the ball at will against Los Angeles’ defensive regulars.
Now, maybe the Chargers were running a conservative set. That’s possible. But it’s worth noting that New Orleans wasn’t exactly putting it’s best foot forward, either. Drew Brees didn’t play at all. For a unit that was so poor a season ago, Sunday’s performance was not a good sign with the regular season so close.